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Tag: artistic

La Loïe Fuller: Danse Radioactive?

When the Curies announced their discovery of radium in 1898, the world took note–and not just the scientific community.  Many uses were proposed for the gently glowing substance, from toothpaste to house paint.  The Curies themselves began investigating radium’s possible medical uses, while the less scrupulous rushed the product immediately to market as a cure for anything that ailed consumers, whether the complaint was acne or heart disease or anything in between.

“La Loïe Fuller,” Henri Toulose-Lautrec

One figure who was particularly fascinated by radium’s potential was Loïe Fuller, a famous dancer at the Folies-Bergère.  Born and raised just outside Chicago, Mary Louise Fuller had made a name for herself as an actress on the vaudeville circuit.  By the time she arrived in Europe, however, her focus had shifted from acting to dance, and she was already well known for her Serpentine Dance, which she had begun performing in 1891.  While touring in France, Fuller found the audiences particularly receptive to her work, and she chose to remain in Paris, changing her stage name from Louie to Loïe Fuller.  She became a star attraction at the Folies, where her innovative technique and colorful performances won her the devotion of the crowd.  Fuller’s image, as depicted by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and other notable artists of the time, adorned the famous posters of Paris.

Loïe Fuller saw radium as an artistic medium.  The style of dance for which she was famous involved wildly swinging and shaking her billowing gown under colored lights, to give the illusion that her gown changed color as she danced.  She had already conducted experiments with Thomas Edison using phosphorescent salts on a black dress, and had relished the effect: her veil, when thrown into the air, “disappeared in the darkness and only the falling luminous drops were seen elongated in their descent taking on the form of great violet blue tears…these things looked ethereal, spiritual, and made me feel in touch with the supernatural.”  Now Loïe realized that radium, with its gentle glow, could produce an even more enchanting effect.

Loïe Fuller’s famous Danse Serpentine.

But the Curies turned her down.  Radium was too rare, they felt–after all, it had taken them months of work to produce even a small amount of the substance.  There were other things that could be done with it, better uses that could be made.

Loïe must have been disappointed.  But, as Lauren Redniss points out in Radioactive, she bore her disappointment well: “A moth to the Curies’ flame, Loïe Fuller came to dance in their home.” (Redniss 64)

To learn more about Loïe Fuller, check out these resources:
Loïe Fuller’s autobiography: Fifteen Years of a Dancer’s Life, with some account of her distinguished friends (Library catalog)
Loïe Fuller biography at Time Lapse Dance
Electric Salome: Loïe Fuller’s Performance of Modernism, Rhonda K. Garelick (Library catalog)
Loïe Fuller, Goddess of Light, Richard Nelson Current (Library catalog)

Brooke Williams, GBR graduate student

Marie Curie & Radium

The talented trainers at DesignLab have done it again.  A few weeks ago, we showed you the Radioactive-inspired pages they made as part of their “training boot camp” (if you haven’t checked those out, definitely do so now!).  Today, DesignLab TA Kevin Gibbons sent us a comic he created, depicting Marie Curie’s “love-kill” relationship with radium, as part of a workshop on e-writing assignments. (Click to enlarge.)

Want to make your own comic or other media project?  Visit the DesignLab website and find out how to set up an appointment with one of their talented TAs.

As a sidenote, we love it when people send us visual work inspired by or relating to Radioactive!  If you’d like one of your creations to be featured on the blog, send us an email at  Please refer to this post for further information about submission guidelines.

Brooke Williams, GBR grad student

DesignLab creates their own Radioactive images

DesignLab will be supporting projects associated with this year’s Go Big Read program.  During training boot camp, the DesignLab TAs each produced a response to the content and aesthetics of Radioactive by responding to one of the stories or sections of the book by creating an additional page or layout of a 2-page spread.

DesignLab is located in College Library, room 2250.  To find out more or to make an appointment with a TA, check out the DesignLab website here.  In the meantime, enjoy these gorgeous Radioactive-themed pages.  (Click to enlarge–it’s worth it!)

“Eusapia,” Dominique Haller

“Scintillating,” Melanie Wallace

“Glo Paint,”T.J. Kalaitzidis

“The Other Curie,” Erin Schambereck


“Radioactive Articles,” Steel Wagstaff


“Radioactive Man,” Mitch Schwartz

“Family,” Kevin Gibbons

“Conversation,” Dan Banda

Content Submitted by Rosemary Bodolay
Associate Director for Design Lab

“Go Big Read marries art and science”

 Image courtesy of Harper-Collins

Today’s Inside UW-Madison, the university’s newsletter for faculty and staff, includes this fantastic article by Jenny Price about Radioactive.  It’s a great discussion of one of the best things about this year’s Go Big Read pick: its widespread appeal.  Radioactive is not just a science book, although it deals with plenty of science; it’s not just an art book, although it’s certainly very artistic; and it’s not just a biography, although it certainly sheds light on Marie Curie’s private life.  Below, my favorite quote from the article:

The book is an arresting mash-up of art and science, with cyanotype images and luminous pages contributing to the emotional impact of a story about the human side of innovation and discovery.

Maybe that’s why Radioactive is so interesting to so many people: it’s a human story.  And of course that means the book can’t be just any one thing, because people aren’t just any one thing, either.

The article also talks about how members of the faculty will be incorporating the book into their courses, from introductory biology to journalism.  Have you gotten your copy yet?

Posted by Brooke Williams, (new) grad student assistant at the Go Big Read program

Our Nation of Others: Submit your Creative and Artistic Reactions

To encourage a variety of dialogs with this year’s “Go Big Read” selection, UW-Madison’s Memorial Library, Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies Program, University Health Services, and the School of Education will hold a juried art and literature competition for creative and artistic responses to Enrique’s Journey.

All members of the Madison community, including students of all ages, are encouraged to submit a creative work made in reaction to Enrique’s Journey.

Submissions can be in the form of literary works (poems, short stories or essays) or visual works (photographs, paintings, sculpture, collage, etc.). A committee made up of UW faculty, students, and community members will choose the best works, which will be featured in a campus exhibit in Spring of 2012. The creators of the best works will also be recognized at a public awards ceremony and reception to be held in conjunction with the exhibit.

Please watch for a formal call for submissions, to be posted on the Go Big Read web site and distributed widely in late September 2011.